Miitopia Is A Bizarre and Awesome Social Experiment of A Game

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Why yes, that is Princess Bubblegum dancing with the Powerpuff Girls, Captain Falcon from F-Zero, Rock Lee from Naruto, and Bowser from the Mario games.

Nintendo is a company that most people who have played video-games have heard of. They’ve been leading the pack when it comes to game development for decades now and it’s not hard to see why. Of course, Nintendo is also no stranger to experimentation. A ton of their video-games and consoles have been experiments of some caliber, some of which are successful and others not.

However, one of the most interesting things they did with their video-games was introduce the “Mii”. With the release of the Nintendo Wii, the company created a new concept entirely for said console. The Mii was and still is a custom avatar created by the player, one that could be inserted into games to act as a playable character.

While this was a cool concept, there sadly wasn’t a game that made proper use of it for the longest time. Tomodachi Life and Miitomo were sadly gimmicky versions of this concept and both of them failed to make good use of the Miis as characters. The Miis were thrown into games on newer consoles, only for them to end up as mediocre affairs. This all changed with “Miitopia”, which may be the most interesting game Nintendo ever put out.

Miitopia
I certainly don’t remember this happening in a Nintendo Direct!

Miitopia was a pretty average, yet surprisingly solid turn-based RPG. It had everything you’d expect from a JRPG: Taking turns in combat, leveling up, getting new gear, staying at inns, choosing from weird character classes, etc. However, there was one thing this game did that set it apart from any other game on the market. The game had you casting Miis as your playable characters, allowing you to fill the roles of the game’s characters with real people. Heck, you could even cast other fictional characters from different franchises as the game’s cast!

I think this was the game’s most interesting appeal: The ability to have any character in fiction play the role of any character in the game. The crossover potential for this feature is INSANE. This gets especially crazy if you use “Mii Central”, which will put random custom Miis in the roles of all the game’s side characters. For example, I ran into a travelling food connoisseur played by SPIDER-MAN! I also got several villagers who were characters from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Star Wars, and the Legend of Zelda games.

In essence, this is what Miitopia is all about. This was the key selling point, especially for a game as simplistic as this. If Miitopia had released as just another turn-based RPG, then nobody would’ve touched it. The ability to cast characters as your heroes gives it this level of replay value undreamed of.

The game runs on its player-made content, giving it a wealth of potentially interesting characters to pull from. The fact that you can actually vote on which characters you’d like to see get cast gives it this feeling of being a part of a “community”. This is surprising, especially when you consider the fact that this game has no multiplayer compatibility to speak of.

This is honestly what makes the game so great, the fact that it unites us when we’re not playing together. These are OUR custom characters that we made and let loose into this Nintendo service, and seeing them end up in a silly 3DS game certainly warms my heart. I think that’s where Miitopia shines, feeling like this great experiment on how to unite players without actually bringing them together.

This is why I consider Miitopia to be more of a “social experiment”, rather than just another game. It allowed the creativity of millions of goofballs around the world to coalesce into this collage of craziness. I honestly don’t think we’ll ever anything quite like Miitopia again, which is a shame.

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Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid Review

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Would you believe me if I told you that wasn’t a Megazord?

Time to talk about Power Rangers, which is surprisingly a topic I’ve never gotten into on my blog. I love Power Rangers, or at least I used to growing up. The original series and several of its sequel seasons were near and dear to my heart. Power Rangers was one of those series that just never ended, which resulted in it jumping from copyright holder to copyright holder.

The franchise is currently in the hands of toy manufacturer, “Hasbro”, who have been making some fun and interesting changes to the series. For one thing, we have “Power Rangers: Beast Morphers”, which may be the single best season of the show in nearly a decade!

With yet another film reboot of Power Rangers coming soon, it only made sense for Hasbro to commission a new Power Rangers game! This is where game the studio known as “nWay Games” comes into play. They developed the Power Rangers game, “Legacy Wars”, and were brought into both develop and co-publish this new game.

What we got was “Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid”, a fun and somewhat bare-bones fighting game. Battle For The Grid is a set in an alternate version of the show’s very first iteration, “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers”. Our heroes are attacked by “Lord Drakken”, an evil version of Tommy Oliver (The Green/White Ranger) from an alternate timeline and his evil goons.

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Green Ranger: The only guy badass enough to use a dagger as a flute.

The original Rangers are then pulled into a struggle that involves a bunch of Rangers from other teams as well. The Rangers must now work together and stop Drakken from destroying everything! This is the plot of the game’s story mode, which is sadly really lacking. For one thing, a lot of the cheesy charm of Power Rangers is lost in this story, due to it taking a backseat to a darker narrative.

While Power Rangers had been dark before, this was mainly exclusive to the films and shows. The games often played off the light-hearted elements of the early seasons. I get why they went the darker route, since this was based off the extremely dark “Shattered Grid” storyline from the comics. While that comic was definitely great, it sadly does not translate well to a story-mode that is only about 2-3 hours long.

It’s not a terrible story, but it feels lacking for something that’s bringing together over 20 seasons (and a recent motion picture) together into one big crossover. That’s enough about the story, let’s talk about how this game plays! The thing about Battle For The Grid is that its combat system is pretty simplistic.

You do attacks with each individual button and guard by pressing the opposite direction on the D-pad. You also have your typical special attacks, which you activate by filling up a bar. You then duke it out with your opponent in a 3-on-3 battle! If all this sounds a lot like the “Marvel Vs. Capcom series”, then that’s because Battle For The Grid takes a lot of inspiration from it.

From the crossover aspect to the selection of 3 team members for a match, it’s clear that the developers have played a fair bit of MvC. While a 3-on-3 fighter isn’t a bad thing for this game to be, it’s lacking roster harms this concept. You only get 12 characters in the base game’s roster, while 3 others are included with the season pass.

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Man, Rita’s really aged well over the past 25 years!

This lacking roster is one of the game’s biggest weaknesses. While the combat is fun, the lack of variety in playable characters hurts it in the long run. The minuscule roster means there’s less choices for meaningful team builds. While all 15 characters do play differently, the lack of options definitely hurts it in the long run.

There’s also the fact that the roster only covers a select number of Power Rangers shows. Most of the characters are from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, or the comics based off the show. All the other characters are random picks from across the franchise, most of which being sixth rangers or one-off characters that only appeared once or twice.

It feels less like the roster was picked based on what fans actually wanted, and more like the developers just picked random Rangers from a hat. I’ve harped enough about the roster, let’s move onto the game’s graphics and sounds! The game looks pretty nice graphically, especially for a game I played on Nintendo Switch. All the characters are designed very well and are true to how they look in the shows.

The game’s story mode also features some cool “comic book” styled cut-scenes, but these are far and few between. The music is what you’d expect from a Power Rangers game, which includes a lot of heavy rock. However, the game designers didn’t include any of the original songs from the show. There’s no “Go Gold Ranger”, “White Ranger Tiger Power”, or any theme song from the original shows present here.

It’s a shame, since I’d love to finally hear all those jamming tunes put in a game! With all that being said, let me sum up my thoughts: This game is middle-of-the-road. It’s not a terrible game, but it’s lacking a lot of meaningful features. While there are a fair amount of modes on offer here, there’s no real reason to indulge in a lot of them. Arcade Mode is the biggest offender, offering no real substantial rewards for beating it with each individual character.

The story mode is only a few hours long and the roster is way too small. Regardless, I had fun with this game! While the story mode was short and repetitive, it did bring back a lot of the original cast and some good soundalikes. While the combat is simplistic, it’s still very fun and easy to get a hold of.

If you’re a Power Rangers fan, I highly suggest checking this game out! However, do not buy the season pass! It’s a bit overpriced, especially since it doesn’t give you that much new content. I honestly regret buying it, and I feel that I should’ve just got the base game on its own instead.

Considering the base game is only about 20 bucks, it’s not that expensive of a purchase. It’s a fun budget game, but not much more than that. Still, it’s definitely one of the better Power Rangers games to come out of the franchise! That’s my thoughts on the new Power Rangers game. It’s fun, but lacks a lot in many departments. Oh well, at least it’s still better than that crummy Lightspeed Rescue game!

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This better not be a remake of “Agony In Pink”!

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: Black Order Review

Spider Squad
Wait, I don’t remember Venom being in Spider-Verse…

Comic books are a medium that will never truly die. Sure, the sales for comics are lower than they have ever been right now, but that hasn’t stopped a stream of film adaptations being made every year. This is especially true for Marvel Comics! Despite the fact that their comic imprint is pretty much dead, they are still making billions at the box office with their “Marvel Cinematic Universe” films.

The MCU has become the biggest money-maker in Hollywood and is a giant interconnected web of over 20 films and numerous TV shows. Of course, these aren’t the only things that spawned from the films. There’s also Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, a sequel/reboot to a classic game series that merges the comics with the films very well! With that being said, let’s talk about this game and what makes it so great!

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is the third entry in the franchise, while also being a definitive reboot for the series as a whole. It ditches established continuity in order to take elements from the many other Marvel continuities. The game focuses on the “Infinity War” plot-line from both the comics and the past couple Avengers films.

However, this game does a lot things different than its comic and film counterparts. Instead of making a straight-up adaptation of Infinity War, the quest for the Infinity Stones is used to take the players on a fantastical journey through the Marvel universe.

You fight numerous villains along the way, many of whom possess the fabled Infinity Stones. It’s your job to beat up the bad guys, join forces with over 30 classic Marvel heroes and villains, and stop Thanos from making the universe “not feel so good”. The story is basic, but it has a couple interesting twists that manages to make the main quest entertaining throughout.

However, the story isn’t the big draw of the game, that award goes to the game-play! Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is a dungeon-crawling action RPG at its heart. You pick a team of 4 superheroes from a list of over 30 and then fight through hoards of henchmen and super-villains. With each of the 36 heroes having different powers, abilities, strengths and weaknesses, it makes choosing the right team a daunting task.

The game-play is pretty basic and is generally easy to get a hold of. You have your four superheroes, which you can switch to at will with a single button tap. Each hero has regular attacks and a set of four upgradable special attacks. The abilities for each hero tend to be distinctive and helps give each hero a unique flare. For example, Spider-Man can web enemies up and keep them from attacking, while Doctor Strange has several magical spells that are good at crowd control.

Making 36 playable characters distinct is truly a tremendous feat! What’s more tremendous than the amount of playable characters is the insane upgrade system in this game! You have special magical crystals called “ISO-8s”, which boost your stats and abilities. There’s also a large upgrade tree that’ll take months worth of game-play to fully fill out!

While the upgrade and equipment system is pretty fun, the game is way too grind-heavy. All of the characters in the game have to be leveled up individually, which means you’ll have to replay a lot of repetitive quests to get new characters up to the level of your current party.

Unfortunately, that’s the game’s biggest problem: It’s repetitive nature. The game offers a campaign that’ll run you a dozen hours at most, and it re-uses all of its boss fights and story missions in the “Infinity Trials”. These are special harder versions of missions in the story mode. While this sounds cool, they don’t do anything too new or different from the story missions. They just function like harder versions of pre-existing missions, while lacking in distinctive variation. While the Infinity Trials can offer new objectives and toss in a couple distinct challenges, these missions still lack in meaningful changes.

Let’s move onto the game’s presentation, which is stellar for a game of this ilk! The graphics are nice and cartoonish, which give the game a fun “comic book-y” feel. The game’s music is the kind of music you’d normally hear in a superhero game, nothing too special there. However, the game’s voice-cast is what truly sells the game’s presentation!

Nicholas Cage
I can’t help but read this line in Nicholas Cage’s voice.

If you’ve grown up with any Marvel cartoon, video-game, or animated special in the past year, then you’ll definitely recognize the voices on offer here. Marvel and Disney went all out and hired back voice-actors from hundreds of different projects to come back to voice their characters. It’s one of the most stellar voice-casts ever assigned to a licensed video-game! Yuri Lowenthal as Spider-Man, Steven Blum as Venom and Wolverine, and Nolan North as Deadpool are just a few standout pearls in this ocean of amazing talent.

While the game looks and sounds awesome, it unfortunately has quite a few performance issues. For one thing, the game chugs when there’s too much going on. Whenever action fills the screen, expect your frame-rate to slow down considerably. Worse still, the game’s demanding graphics tends to kick the fans into over-drive. This causes the fans to go into over-time, which does burn through quite a bit of power. I’m hoping this does get patched later down the line.

With all this being said, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is a fantastic time! The insane amount of characters, fantastic voice-acting, great visuals, and fun game-play definitely sell the title. However, it is hampered by its repetitive nature and occasional performance issues. The game is pure fun, but don’t expect anything “unique” or “life-changing”. It’s just a fun action game, which is all I could ask for!

Doctor Octogonapus
Never thought I’d see Doctor Octopus’ original design again! We need MORE classic Doc Ock action!

Dungeons & Dragons Marathon: Chronicles of Mystara Review

I remember when arcades were something special, back when they were a fun excursion for people who just wanted to dump some quarters on a video-game. Arcades were one of my favorite things growing up, mostly due to how much time I spent in them. I’d spend several quarters on a single game, just in an attempt to see how far I’d get. One of the biggest quarter drainers for me were “Beat-Em-Up” games, which involved the player fighting through levels filled with hordes of easily beatable mooks.

Capcom seemed to be the king when it came to beat-em-ups, since they made so many of them back in the day. You had classics like Alien Vs. Predator, Knights of The Round, Captain Commando, and The King of Dragons! However, there were a pair of beat-em-ups that I felt were way better than all the rest. I’m of course talking about the classic “Dungeons & Dragons” arcade games!

Originally released in the 90s, these two games served as arcade interpretations of the classic D&D board-game. Now, I’m going to be doing things a bit differently for this review. While normally I would review these games separately, I felt like I should review them as a collective package. After all, the second game is basically just the first game with a different story, some new classes, and several new areas.

So, let’s tackle the “Chronicles of Mystara” games: Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara. The two games take place in the eponymous land of “Mystara”, which is one of the original settings for Dungeons & Dragons. Both arcade games plunge you into a fantasy world, and have you do battle against hordes of evil creatures. The two games feature typical fantasy stories, which are filled with typical fantasy characters. The game plays like your average beat-em-up game, but with a twist.

The game adds in RPG mechanics, as well as some rules from the board-game to spice things up. There are a lot of neat little touches, like The Beholder’s ability to block a magic user’s spell-casting abilities. I also liked that the game had a leveling up system, as well as abilities that can only be used a certain amount of times per level. There’s also an item shop available at the end of each level, allowing players to spend the coins they earned on a random smattering of items.

The Mystara games are best played with multiple people, as they were built from the ground up with multiplayer in mind. It’s fun to team up with your friends and fight back the endless onslaught of goblins, owlbears, and magic-wielding elves. One of the games’ most impressive features is the “branching paths” the story takes, which was something most arcade games didn’t have.

Making certain choices in the game result in the player advancing through different levels, collecting rare and legendary items, or fighting new enemies. This gives the relatively short arcade games a fair bit of replay value. Sure, the choices don’t drastically change what happens in the game, but the variety they add is much appreciated.

Speaking of choices, the game offers a wide variety of playable characters. While the first game only had 4 character classes, the sequel upped it to 6. While most characters play near identically to each other, they all boast different abilities that set them apart. For example, Clerics can use healing spells and buff the party, Magic-Users can assault enemies with attack spells, etc.

There’s enough variety here to make the six characters feel unique, while also making them equally efficient in combat. Regardless of their abilities, every character will still primarily focus on hacking away at enemies with their weapon. Let’s move on to the games’ graphics and sound, which have aged remarkably well.

Despite the fact that these games came out in the 90s, their 2D graphics have aged very well. The soundtrack is also fantastic, while boasting some of the catchiest tunes in Capcom history. If I have any complaints about this game at all, it would be that the PC version is pretty bad.

This was the version of the game I played the most, and its lacking in several departments. You can’t change most of the controller bindings, the graphic options are terrible, and overall it’s just a bad port. That being said, the console versions of the game are much better in every aspect.

If you’re one of the people who never grew up on the original arcade games, I highly recommend trying out the console ports. The game is pretty easy to find in digital storefronts, while also being fairly cheap. If you want an arcade game that marries the old-school RPG elements of tabletop D&D with arcade goodness, then this is certainly the game for you!

 

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Review

If there’s anything I’ve learned from nearly 4 years of writing, it’s that creativity is king. Making something that’s successful is always a plus, but you always want to make sure that what you make isn’t generic. This isn’t always easy, as balancing both creativity and money is a difficult thing. That’s why companies will often put out bland cookie-cutter projects, because it’s just easier than gambling on something new.

That’s why “Goichi Suda” will always be the king of creating unique gaming experiences. For those of you who don’t know, Goichi Suda is a game developer known for creating truly insane and wacky gaming experiences. Going by the name of “Suda 51”, he has created many games with the help of his development team, “Grasshopper Manufacture”.

Suda’s most popular series would have to be “No More Heroes”, which revolves around a nerdy assassin named “Travis Touchdown”. The first game centered around Travis’ climb to the top of the “League of Assassins”, because he wanted to become number 1 and have sex with some lady named “Sylvia”. That’s the general setup of the game, but the story gets a lot more interesting than that.

Despite the game’s bosses only showing up once each, they all have unique and interesting personalities. They were all entertaining in their own right, which made Travis’ interactions with them all the more engrossing. No More Heroes was a surprise hit, one that got many off-guard. No More Heroes’ unique and stylish gameplay, coupled with its amazing cell-shaded graphics won over the hearts of so many gamers.

Despite the fact that Suda had never planned on making a sequel to it, he just couldn’t ignore fan demand. This resulted in “No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle”, a rather divisive sequel. It was a sequel that streamlined elements of the first game, while offering a different story with a similar premise to the first game.

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Jeane can talk?! A TALKING CAT?! THAT’S LUDICROUS!

Acting as a pastiche on revenge stories, Desperate Struggle told the story of Travis’ return to the world of murder. After his best friend is killed, Travis revisits the life he left behind in order to kill all those responsible. The game just wasn’t as interesting as the first one was, feeling more like filler than anything else.

The gameplay wasn’t as varied as the first game, and the ending left a lot to be desired. That brings us to the newest game, which is “Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes”. Being a spinoff of sorts, we are once again thrown into the bloodstained shoes of Travis Touchdown. In said game, Travis finds himself in possession of a mysterious game console known as the “Death Drive MK II”.

While trying to uncover the mysteries of the console, he ends up being attacked by a psycho named “Badman”. Wanting revenge for Travis killing his daughter nearly a decade prior, Badman attempts to murder Travis in cold blood. Before he can do so, the two are sucked into the console itself and find themselves being sent on a journey through various video-games.

The premise is pretty simplistic, though the game does things to spice it up quite a bit. For example, this entire game is just one big giant crossover. It’s actually impressive how much of Suda’s library he shoved into this one game, all just to establish some kind of “shared universe”. I’d discuss the crossover aspect more, but I want to save it for a separate blog post. Don’t worry, I’ll get into more detail on it soon!

Regardless, it’s something that does add to the enjoyment factor of the game. Something that I was mixed on at first was the lack of voice acting, which took some getting used to. The little voice-acting the game had was saved for cinematic cut-scenes, resulting in most of the game relying on written dialogue to tell its story. This isn’t so bad, due in large part to the presentation being pretty solid.

The game presents a lot of its story in two ways: Weird little “Confession” sequences featuring Travis’ inner-thoughts, and “Visual Novel” sequences featuring Travis’ adventures to find the mystical “Death Balls”. While these two segments tend to be mostly disconnected from each other, they do both help in advancing both the story and world. On top of this, they both have a rather nice look to them.

I especially love the Visual Novel sequences, due to them using graphics that wouldn’t be too out of place on an old Apple computer. In short, I found the story to be entertaining, despite its limitations. Let’s move on to the gameplay, which I feel is pretty good overall. Travis Strikes Again features the hack-and-slash gameplay of its predecessors, but with some notable changes. For one thing, the game likes to shift perspectives quite a bit.

You could start out a level from a third-person perspective, only to shift into an isometric view, right before being given a side-scrolling perspective. Thankfully, this constant shifting of perspectives never gets annoying or tiring. It helps keep the game fresh and is an interesting design choice.

What also adds to the gameplay are the RPG elements it introduces. You can level up your character, while also equipping them with various “skill chips”. There are many of these chips scattered throughout the game, and all of them offer many different abilities. Some allow you to heal, shoot lightning at your enemies, or stun your foes. The variety is staggering and it allows for a bit of experimentation.

Speaking of experimentation, this is the first game in the series to have multiplayer. 2 people can take control of both Travis and Badman simultaneously, allowing for some fun co-operative gameplay. What makes this especially fun is the fact that players can hit each other with their attacks without damaging them. This means that you have to be careful with your attacks, or else you’ll hit your teammate and knock him out of a combo.

There are also new gameplay styles aside from the hacking and slashing, such as racing and an Asteroids-like mini-game. I found the racing mini-game to be quite fun, at least once I got the hang of it. The Asteroids section was also fun, even though I suck pretty bad at that game.

However, there’s one gameplay style that just does not work at all: The platforming sections. I’m not sure where Suda’s obsession with putting platforming segments in No More Heroes started, but it needs to stop. The platforming requires a lot of waiting, weird timing, and awkward trial-and-error gameplay.

Another issue I had was with the second level, which had some alright flip puzzles. It’s entertaining, up until a giant blue skull starts chasing you around the level. One touch from the skull would instantly kill you, resulting in a lot of unnecessary running around in an attempt to not die. This part got tedious real fast!

Other than the two parts I mentioned, there wasn’t much wrong with the gameplay. The hack-and-slashing was fun, albeit repetitive. The large amount of skills you could get gave you many options to approach combat with, while the various T-Shirts you could buy gave you an incentive to collect every coin you could find.

One thing I didn’t like was the lack of content. There are only seven levels in the game, and it’ll take you roughly 7-10 hours to beat everything. To be fair, there is a New Game+ mode, collectibles, and 4 difficulties to toy around with. Sadly, it’s nowhere near the amount of things there is to do in the first 2 games.

If you were to play through the game on each difficulty, collect everything, and do the optional “find Jeane” missions, then you could easily get 20-30 hours out of the game. I just wish there was more meaningful side-content, like the “Assassination Missions” in the first game.

Overall, I do think the game-play is pretty entertaining. It’s got flaws, but it doesn’t detract from the overall package too much. Let’s move onto the game’s sound and graphics next, which is its strongest asset. The game looks pretty damn solid, most of the time. As usual, the cut-scenes for the game are gorgeous.

Character designs are fantastic, and the cell-shaded visuals are amazing as usual. Unfortunately, the game likes to zoom out the action a lot, so you sadly won’t get to see the finer details most of the time. The in-game models could also use some polish, especially on Badman. I swear, his hair looks like stray pixels most of the time! The music and sound-effects are fantastic, and really evoke the feel of the first two games.

My favorite song in the whole game had to be “Eight Hearts’ Theme”, due to it being this trippy Japanese rap song. A lot of the game’s songs are just as unbelievably catchy, which isn’t too out of the norm for a Suda 51 game. Even the lounge-like music that plays while you’re at the trailer is awesome! The last thing I’ll touch on is the voice-acting, which is phenomenal. Despite their being very little actual voice-acting in the game, all of it is done really well. Having the original voice-cast return is a definite plus, and I think it meshes well with the game’s style.

Alright, so what are my final thoughts on the game? I definitely enjoyed it, but it certainly had a fair bit of issues. The camera is too zoomed out during most fights, there’s a lack of meaningful side-content, the combat can get repetitive, and some of the new gaming styles aren’t the best.

That being said, the story for the game is pretty fantastic. The cut-scenes are rendered in an interesting way, and I loved the old-school “Travis Strikes Back” sequences. The visuals and sound are both stellar, and each level has a unique feel to it. There’s more enemy variety than in previous games, and the inclusion of all these nods to other games is fantastic.

I liked this game, but I find it hard to recommend to most people. If you’re looking for an action game, than there are certainly worse choices out there. Travis Strikes Again won’t rock your world, or change the way you view action games. It’s a weird, surreal, and interesting experience that builds off of Suda’s massive catalog of work.

Calling it a bad game would be doing a disservice to the hard work that went into it, but it certainly has glaring flaws. I recommend this game mostly to people who love Suda’s work and want to see No More Heroes 3, and also to those who just love surreal Japanese games. As for me, I’m going to play through the game again. After all, I gotta get all those secrets I missed!

The League of Legends Advertising Is Starting To Get Ridiculous

Commercials and advertising are an important thing for any kind of intellectual property, business, or franchise. Getting your name out there is beneficial to gaining more revenue and attention, which in turn helps you grow your fan-base. I’m not against advertising in any way, but I’d be lying if I didn’t think advertising could go too far at times. A good example of this is the animated commercials for “League of Legends”, which have to be some of my least favorite advertisements of all time.

Please keep mind that I’m not trying to put down League of Legends or its fan-base with this post. I just really don’t like its advertising, that’s all. I’m a huge fan of animation, but even I can’t deny how bland these advertisements are. Most of the animated commercials lack any sort of consistent style, and all appear to be made by different animators. On paper, this doesn’t sound so bad. The problem is that all these animators approach animation and tone differently, resulting in an inconsistent style for most of these advertisements.

For example, some commercials are styled like Japanese anime, while others are presented as animatic-style Flash animations. This results in most commercials having no real correlation with each other, due to them all being so vastly different. It probably doesn’t help that some of them seem to lie about the game, or don’t properly portray it correctly.

You see, League of Legends is a “MOBA”, which stands for “Multiplayer Online Battle Arena”. It’s similar to a MMORPG, but lacking the vast open-world and quests of one. Instead of questing across a fantasy world, you do battle on an arena with teams of players. The game itself relies on good coordination and teamwork in order to achieve victory.

Thing is, some advertisements choose to portray the game differently. A good example is the video below, which tries to make the game seem more like a MMORPG. You have players exploring the world and having adventures, while fighting other players. In truth, there are no real adventures to be had in this game.

League of Legends mostly exists as a competitive game┬ánowadays, which the commercial does a poor job of demonstrating. Several other League of Legends ads rely on really bad comedy, which results in a lot of jokes just missing the mark. Most of them contain silly voices, awkward editing, or a lack of any real comedic hook. I know comedy is subjective, but I always found these “comedic” advertisements to really lack any punch.

I’ve harped a lot on the advertisements themselves, but they are really only part of the problem. The real issue I have with them is the frequency in which they get shown, since I often get barraged by them way too often. League of Legends has many of these adverts, which will often by shoved into your face as you try to watch a video on YouTube.

I have no problem with YouTube advertisements, but I get a sick of them constantly shoving the same commercials for the same game down my gullet all the time. It’s especially weird since I never watched any League of Legends videos before today, so there would be little reason for YouTube’s strange algorithm to put them in front of me. I haven’t even played the game in the years, since it was never really my type of genre.

I’ve heard rumors that the reason the advertising is so gratuitous is due to the game starting to die. It wouldn’t surprise me, considering League of Legends is nearly past its expiration date. The game has been around for almost 10 years now, and is mostly kept alive by its competitive scene. Most online games only last about 3-10 years, so I can’t see the game continuing much past this point.

Again, I’ve got nothing against advertising a game. The key problem is that the advertising is too in-your-face and inconsistent. When you have over a dozen different animators/animation teams all producing their own vision, then things are bound to get problematic. I feel that having a unified vision could help the advertising in the long run, but I doubt that will ever happen. Oh well, at least it’s not one of the worst advertising campaigns I’ve seen…

 

Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition Review

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Good to see that 2002 is still alive and well!

Dungeons & Dragons is a game that is powered by the imagination and creativity of those who play it. It’s a board-game that has stood the test of time and continued to get many new iterations, while inventing the whole “RPG” genre. As you can tell, I am a huge fan of “D&D”, despite not playing much of the game myself. I never really had the patience to sit down and play a complex board-game, but I was always up for partaking in various adaptations of the game!

I loved that silly and weird Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, that overtly campy live-action film, and those downright hilarious D&D parodies made by the “Deadale Wives”. While those are all great, I prefer video-game adaptations of D&D the most! D&D has had many game adaptations, such as the extremely popular “Baldur’s Gate” series.

Set in the “Forgotten Realms” world of D&D, Baldur’s Gate was an attempt to bring the popular board-game to life in a whole new way. It was an RPG based heavily upon old-school D&D, drawing upon its many rules and mechanics to help build the experience. As a result, Baldur’s Gate felt like a worthwhile adaptation of both classic D&D and The Forgotten Realms.

Baldur’s Gate was made by Bioware, who was a brand new company at the time. They’re work on Baldur’s Gate propelled them into the limelight, making them a household name in the process. Baldur’s Gate did so well that they cranked out a fantastic sequel, right before following it up with an amazing expansion pack. Naturally, people loved the Baldur’s Gate games and wanted more.

Bioware was eventually handed the D&D license once more, but decided to make a completely different game this time around. Instead of doing a third Baldur’s Gate game, they ended up creating a spiritual successor to an older D&D game. Before Baldur’s Gate was released, there was a game called “Neverwinter Nights”. The game was unique in that it was the first ever “MMORPG”, paving the way for similar games like “EverQuest” and “Ultima Online”.

While the game itself shut down its servers in 97, Bioware decided to revive it in a way that nobody was expecting. Bioware brought us a new “Neverwinter Nights” game in 2002; one that was completely unrelated to the original. This game was unique and touted by trailers as a “Multiplayer Revolution”.

Neverwinter Nights 2002 set itself apart from the original by being a game with a single-player campaign, which could also be played entirely with friends. The new Neverwinter Nights was originally built to be another MMORPG like its predecessor, but Bioware had run out of time during development. They decided to make a rather formulaic story mode instead, while also adding in multiplayer and releasing the development tools to the players.

The game was a head of its time, as it was one of the first to embrace player-made content. In fact, the game was mostly known for its fan-made content. It was revolutionary in helping develop the game-modding scene, and really broke ground when it came to how such content was made. It also helps that the community who helped make these great mods were allowed to work on “Premium Modules”, which were essentially miniature expansions you had to pay for.

The system worked, and Neverwinter Nights enjoyed success for several years. However, this didn’t stop the server list from getting removed, or support for the game being discontinued. This all changed in 2018, when the game studio known as “Beamdog” decided to release a newer version of the game that runs better on modern computers. This version of the game was called “Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition”.

This is the first version of the game I ever played, due to having never found the game in stores. It also doesn’t help that most of the older versions of the game are incompatible with modern computers. Thanks to Beamdog, I was able to properly experience this game for the first time!

So, what is this game like? Well, it’s certainly a grand experiment in game design, that’s for certain! While the game’s story mode is lacking, its endless amount of user-based content and premium modules make up for it. The Enhanced Edition comes with “Steam Workshop” support, which allows for the easy usage of various mods. Using mods with Steam Workship is as easy as a simple click of the mouse, making the installation of said mods a simple task.

On top of this, all mods and modules are treated as separate “campaigns”. What this means is that since almost every mod is its own thing, so you don’t have to worry about installing too many mods and causing the game to break. The game itself plays like your typical MMORPG, CRPG, or Dungeons & Dragons game. You click the enemy to attack, can use potions or abilities in battle, and can level up at your leisure.

It’s a pretty basic system, but the wide array of skills and abilities available make up for the simplicity. There are several classes and races to choose from, some of which have an impact on how you interact with NPCs. For example, choosing a “Half-Orc” as your playable character will give you “dumb” dialogue choices. On top of this, various characters in the game will often react in hilarious ways to your unintelligent dialogue.

I really wish modern games had this level of creativity when it comes to creating interesting characters. Speaking of modern games and how they do things; Neverwinter Nights is certainly lacking in some areas. I don’t just mean the horribly dated graphics, which I still find to be rather awesome after all these years! I’m talking about how the game’s mechanics are handled.

One such mechanic is the “Teleport Stone”, a magical stone that’ll warp you back to the temple. Once you’re back in the temple you can heal up, sell some stuff, and then teleport back to where you left off. The problem? The stone can be easily abused, so you can warp in and out of combat with no consequence!

The cost to teleport back to your starting location is a measly 50 gold, so most combat situations quickly become trivial. That’s not to say the game is easy, since there are certainly some tough battles here or there. On the subject of toughness, let’s talk about that story I keep harping on.

You play as a graduate of “Neverwinter Academy”, which is a school for would-be warriors and adventurers. After an attack by an evil cult, you are given the task of hunting down a bunch of creatures in order to cure a plague. From there, the game extents into a much grander quest and its up to you to set things right.

It’s the same story we’ve seen in most fantasy games, though it does benefit a fair bit from being set in a D&D universe. The setting allows for some great monsters and encounters, as well as some interesting characters. In spite of its lackluster story, it does at least provide an engaging world to explore.

Thankfully, the expansion packs and Premium Modules make up for the lackluster story mode. They include many interesting stories and activities, such as entering a jousting tournament, becoming a pirate, or even escaping from the underworld itself! Couple this with a cavalcade of interesting party members and you have a game that elevates its quality with each new addition.

The main goal of Neverwinter Nights was pushing the envelope of what the engine was capable of. This is why all of these expansions and modules are so ambitious, it’s because they wanted to see what could do with the tools they had. The “Aurora” game engine used to power the game is old, but is variable enough in nature that it allows for some amazing things to be made.

The last thing I want to touch on is the multiplayer servers, which are the real draw of the game. There are so many custom servers made by fans, all of which allow for some fun and epic adventures. Most of said servers are essentially miniature MMORPGs, and allow the players to interact with each other and have adventures. While the game’s expansions and main quest all allow for multiplayer; it’s the MMO servers are the true pull of this game.

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Gary Gygax: Gone but never forgotten.

One such server I’ve spent a lot of time is “World of Intiquity”, which is an awesome MMO-like world. It had a ton of quests to do, items to collect, and adventures to go on. The drop rate for rare, unique, or magical items was also pretty high. This meant that I would often be rewarded with something nice and shiny after playing for a measly 10 minutes. The way Intiquity doled out rewards kept me engaged, even if I found myself dying quite a bit.

I know this gets said a lot about many games, but Neverwinter Nights feel less like a game and more like an “experience”. While its main story isn’t all that good, all of its supplementary content is truly interesting and engaging. The base game has hundreds of hours worth of content, while the player-made content helps expand that greatly.

There’s just so much to love about this slightly updated version of Neverwinter Nights, in spite of how old and outdated the game feels at times. I highly recommend this game to those that want to try a unique take on the MMO genre, or those who want to experience one of the first games to thrive on community-made content. It’s not a revolutionary game, and its certainly past its prime. Regardless of this, it’s still a fun time for those with the time to invest into it!

Destiny 2: Better Late Than Never Review

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Stupid shoulder-pads: The Video-Game

What happens when titans fall? They create an earthquake when they hit the ground! This is what happened nearly three weeks ago when the development studio known as “Blizzard Activision” bombed their convention presentation. Blizzard shot themselves in the foot at their event, (known as Blizzcon) by announcing a phone game based off their popular Diablo franchise.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal. However, they announced this rather small game on the stage usually reserved for big announcements. It also doesn’t help that they belittled the audience when they got booed, or that they acted like this little phone game would be some kind of “big seller”. Regardless, people were understandably annoyed with how Blizzard handled the situation.

This little stunt cost them billions of dollars, and made many investors lose faith in them. I bring all this up for one specific reason: Blizzard and Activision are trying really hard to do as much damage control as they can. This resulted in them purposefully leaking Diabo 4, a sequel to a game that most PC gamers would actually want.

However, one of the biggest things they did was make Destiny 2 free for a couple of weeks. Destiny 2 is a game that I would classify as “interesting”. Destiny 2 was a sequel to the first Destiny game, one of the most over-hyped games in the history of gaming. After it came out and underwhelmed audiences, while its developer “Bungie” kept trying to fix and improve the game.

However, these fixes were both good and bad. They fixed some of the more glaring issues, which included adding new PVP modes, new items and side-content, and actually like-able NPCs. However, it took forever for a lot of these fixes to be implemented. With each new expansion came new changes, which helped improve the game greatly. However, most people were understandably irked by the fact that they had to pay so much for a game that wasn’t even really finished.

To actually play what most fans considered to be the “good parts” of the story, you had to buy these expansions. Otherwise, you’re stuck with a very unsatisfying and incomprehensible story-line, one that only lasts a few hours at best. After releasing several expansions, Bungie and Activision decided to release a sequel. This sequel came a mere three years after the first game, and was met with a slightly higher reception than the first game.

That brings us to today’s subject, the controversial Destiny 2. I was never really interested in the Destiny franchise, but I finally decided to give this game a chance. After all, they just gave it out to everyone for free. So, why not dive into it and see what I was missing? Allow me to preface this by saying that I never actually played the first game, so this review is coming from a fresh and new perspective.

Destiny 2 takes place in a fictional sci-fi universe, revolving around a group of space heroes called “The Guardians”. The Guardians are magical immortals, given their powers by a giant floating planet-like thing called “The Traveler”. An evil alien named “Ghaul” has attacked earth and killed countless beings, all in an attempt to capture The Traveler. With The Traveler in his clutches, he steals “The Light” from The Guardians, which is effectively their power source. With their powers gone, Ghaul’s forces easily defeatsThe Guardians and takes control of the earth.

You play as a customizable Guardian who sets out to regain his Light, stop Ghaul, and collect a ton of rare and shiny items along the way. It’s a very basic plot, but it’s presented in a very poor way. The game does a terrible job of explaining who the characters are, how the universe works, or what The Traveler even is. I know this is a sequel, but I still found it hard to follow the plot. There’s also no in-game codex, so it’s hard to look up info on what happened in the previous game while playing.

There’s so much that goes unexplained through much of the game, to the point where it’s almost hilarious. The story is the weakest part of the game, that’s for sure. What about the game-play itself? Well, the game itself is fun to play, at least for the most part. The game is a First-Person Shooter/ Role-Playing Game hybrid. The game focuses primarily on gun-play, fighting various enemies, and gaining shiny new pieces of equipment.

Let’s start with the game’s gun-play and combat, which is its main focus. It’s pretty good, and features very responsive controls. There’s nothing “unique” or “revolutionary” about the combat, but it gets the job done. Shooting giant alien monsters is satisfying, even if the enemy AI isn’t very smart. Enemies will often just stand there and shoot at you, or occasionally charge at you.

The few times the combat becomes challenging is when you are forced to face a near infinite amount of enemies at once, or when you’re facing a boss with a ton of health. As long as you’re constantly changing out your equipment for new stuff, you’ll never really bump into a challenge that’s too much for you. Even the final boss was kind of a joke, as I was able to take him out fairly easily.

The biggest draw of this game is its “loot”, the gear you obtain by fighting the aforementioned enemies. You’ll constantly be fighting tons of nameless monsters in order to get these items, only to find that they look terrible. The problem with a lot of gear is that you’ll often find stuff with better stats, but it’ll make you look ugly as sin. I can’t tell you how many stupid-looking shoulder-pads I found, or how often I had to wear them just to get their stat benefits.

Sure, you can “Infuse” your weaker gear with something of higher stats. This allows you to wear something that both looks cool and is sufficiently powerful. The problem is that you need several different items to be able to infuse your gear, with the items changing depending on the rarity of said items. This means you’ll need to farm a ton of useless items to infuse your gear, some of which you may never have any real use for.

Defeating enemies isn’t the only way to obtain gear and items, there are plenty of activities in the game that can reward you such items. There are “Public Events”, which are basically special trials that happen somewhere on the map. Any player on the map can engage in them, resulting in most nearby players working together to complete them. Upon completion, you’ll receive a smattering of random items as a reward.

Unfortunately, Public Events are lacking in variety. There’s only a few on each map, and most of them are copied and pasted from the previous planets you visited. There are also “Adventures” and “Quests”, which tend to be fairly boring side-quests that don’t offer much in terms of world-building. There are also Strikes, which are large missions that require 3 players. These are surprisingly tough, and require you to have a lot of good gear in order to properly beat them.

And your reward for wearing more powerful gear to complete these missions is… Even more powerful gear. This is one of Destiny 2’s biggest problems, it’s constant need to shower you in gear. I’ve complained a lot about the loot system and how it functions in the game, but that’s because collecting loot is the game’s biggest draw.

The story is lackluster, most side-quests are forgettable, and most of the cast is fairly bland. Destiny 2 is an undeniably fun game, but it relies too much on gimmicks in order to pad out its run-time. When 90% of your game’s content is superfluous and forgettable, then maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

The last thing I want to touch on is the games “Micro-transactions”, which involving nickle-and-diming the fans for everything their worth. You see, there is an in-game store called “Eververse”. In order to buy some of the rare items from said store, you’ll need a fake currency called “Silver”. As typical with a lot of modern games, you can only get Silver by buying it with in-game cash.

Thankfully, most of the Eververse stuff is cosmetic. It’s still annoying that so much of the cooler-looking things are gated behind paywalls, which is pretty annoying if you’re one of the people who have already paid full-price for the game itself. Sure, it’s superfluous content, but it’s also content you have to shell out a ton of money for.

To sum up my opinions, Destiny 2 is alright. It’s a game that focuses more on drowning its player-base in forgettable side-content, rather than making an experience everyone can enjoy. The story is bland, despite its stellar cinematics. On top of this, the game lacks any uniqueness in its structure. I know a lot of what I’ve said has already been echoed by a lot of other players.

However, I’d be doing a disservice to my audience by just glancing over the game’s many faults. To me, this is a “middle-of-the-road” game. The game is fun, but gets extremely boring fast. This is due to its lack of variety and its boring missions. Destiny 2 left very little impact on me, resulting in me uninstalling the game shortly after beating it.

I don’t hate what I played, but I can’t say I found it enthralling either. Destiny 2 is a middling game, one that I wouldn’t normally have played. The fact that I got it for free is what got me playing it, but the game’s mediocre nature kept me from continuing past that. The amazing graphics and sound did little to win me over. I suggest only getting this game if it’s on sale, or if they offer it for free again. I’d say it’s not a game worth paying full price for, or engaging in its shady micro-transactions.

Fallout New Vegas: “Fallout 76 Experience” Mod Review

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Fruity Bird: A man with a stupid name, who also happens to take a stupid amount of punishment.

Well, Fallout 76 is almost upon us. The release is just five months away, and people are clamoring for what they think will be the “greatest online experience ever”. Well, you no longer have to wait! Why? It’s all because one fan decided to make a mod to emulate that “authentic” online game-play. As a result, we’re gifted with one of the greatest mods of all time: The Fallout 76 Experience!

The main premise of this mod is simple: It emulates a MMORPG experience by filling the game-world with NPCs based off the kinds of people you’d find playing online games. These are the kinds of players who like to spam garbage memes, attack you for no reason at all, and generally try to ruin your day. In essence, this is probably what Fallout 76 will become.

These NPCs are all over the game, and you’ll encounter dozens of them upon installing the mod and starting a new game. Each NPC is more terrible than the last, and will often shout obscenities at you while trying to bludgeon you to death. Heck, one NPC blasts the “Thomas The Tank Engine” theme song nonstop in the starting town!

There’s a lot of craziness like that in the mod. For example, one NPC named “Fruity Bird” (pictured above) attacked me inside the giant dinosaur attraction in Novac. This insane NPC shouted obscenities at me, while wearing a space-suit and trying to punch me to death. What was truly awesome about this NPC is that he feels like he was designed by a player who has zero idea on how to build a character.

His defense stats are through the roof, but his attacks are weak and meaningless. This means that he can take a lot of damage, but can barely dish it out. Sadly, you’ll run into a lot of people like this in a true online game. That’s what makes this mod truly amazing, it’s a multiplayer game without actually having multiplayer in it. All the “players” you run into are NPCs (Non-Player Characters) programmed to either charge at you, stand around pointlessly, or gang up on you alongside other NPCs.

Despite the simplistic nature of the mod, it crafts a more entertaining experience than the last New Vegas mod I reviewed. The New Vegas multiplayer mod was lacking in the fun department, being a broken system where factions rule and solo players can’t hope to stand a chance. At least with this mod, the NPC “players” won’t get in your way as much.

Honestly, I had more fun with just 10 minutes of this mod, than I ever did with the 3 hours I spent with the multiplayer mod. Of course, I’d love if New Vegas had a truly good multiplayer mod. That being said, I like that this mod emulates what an online Fallout would be like.

Let’s be real, Fallout 76 will probably be the same as the “Fallout 76 Experience” mod. I can picture it now, people running around, spouting memes, and shoot anything that moves. It’s truly the kind of online experience I can get invested in! Well, not really, but at least I can get some items from destroying these NPCs. In the end, it’s the loot that really matters!

Fallout New Vegas: Multiplayer Mod Review

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It’s just like regular New Vegas, except everyone will kill you on sight and half of them will most likely be illiterate!

How does one define insanity? How about putting a bunch of internet dorks in a post-apocalypse, and having them nuke each other to oblivion. No, I’m not talking about Fallout 76, but rather the multiplayer mod for Fallout: New Vegas! It’s a rather new mod, and lacking in quite a few essential features. So yeah, this game is a very rough work work-in-progress. With that being said, let’s talk about it!

For those of you who don’t know, Fallout: New Vegas was an open-world RPG/FPS hybrid released in 2010 for PC and all the current-gen consoles at the time. The game took place in the nuclear apocalypse, and served as more of a direct sequel to Fallout 2 than Fallout 3 was. About a year and a half ago, fans got together and decided to finally give Fallout: New Vegas something that fans have been clamoring for: Online multiplayer!

Unfortunately, Fallout: New Vegas’ multiplayer mod is way too flawed to be fun. First of all, the game crashes A LOT. Fallout New Vegas is already a fairly unstable game, but adding multiplayer makes it even worse. The game crashes at the most inopportune and nonsensical times. It crashes when you’re in a fight, when your talking to people, or even when your exiting the game.

That’s not even the worst part of the mod, sadly. So, you’d think the online multiplayer component would be the main selling point. After all, playing Fallout with your friends is supposed to be fun! Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for this mod. The problem here is that every time you die in the game, you lose all your gear and stats. This wouldn’t normally be a bad thing, but the problem is that it’s a PVP game.

More often than not, players will just kill you and steal all your items. For example, there was one user who killed me in a town, while using a rocket launcher. This town was Freeside, which for some reason isn’t a safe-zone. You’d think Freeside and the neighboring city of New Vegas would both be safe zones, because they are the most important locations in the game. Well, I guess the makers of this mod didn’t think so.

So, this user murdered me with a rocket launcher and took all my stuff. He then spouted off a nonsense meme, in an attempt to sound like a badass. Sadly, there’s more than one annoying belligerent user in this game. During one of my gameplay experiences, I heard various complaints from people being nuked constantly in the starting town of Primm. While I get that this is supposed to be a PVP game, it’s so unfairly balanced and poorly programmed that it’s only fun to people who already have good gear.

People who join factions get all these benefits and bonuses, while solo players are often cannon fodder for the various groups in the game. As soon as you make any sort of progress, there’s an angry player-killer around the corner ready to steal it out from under you. It takes you out of the experience, because you have to be wary of pretty much any other user you run into.

The game feels like it’s setup more for griefing and exploiting, rather than having fun. The aspect that I liked the least out of all of them is the character customization, or lack thereof. You see, you are stuck with a template character when you boot up the game. You can’t pick your stats, looks, or traits. Pretty much anything you can acquire in the game is forfeit once you die anyways, so I guess customization is a fruitless endeavor all around.

So, I’ve complained a lot about this mod, but is there anything good about it? Well, you can exploit the game for cheap and easy level-ups by entering The Tops casino, logging out, and then going back in. Also, you skip most of the early portions of the game, and don’t have to bother with the story. Other than that, the mod is very bare bones and offers little in the way of fun.

You want a good Fallout MMO? You could wait for Fallout 76, that may be good. There’s also another fan-made Fallout online experience, called “FOnline: Reloaded”. It’s based off the first 2 Fallout games, and lets you keep all your stuff when you die. It’s actually fun to play, focuses more on the RPG elements, and doesn’t cut out your customization completely. Honestly, it’s the better game in almost every way.

So, should you play the Fallout: New Vegas Multiplayer mod? No, don’t bother. This game is pure annoyance, lacking any of the qualities that made the original game good. Just play the single-player game if you have it, do not bother with this broken mess. If you are interested, I’d suggest waiting a year or two and see if there are any improvements by then.

In FV:MP’s current state, it is not fun and its not playable. You’d be better off playing any other Fallout game in the series, even Fallout 4. The mod may improve, it may not. It depends entirely on the people working on it, and how they choose to craft the mod moving forward. If it stays in its broken state, I can’t imagine too many people continuing to stick around.